A friend of mine has me thinking about the fine lines between exceptional and exclusive, community and clique, special and elitist. She spoke to me recently about a couple of groups she’s familiar with. She saw one as warm and welcoming, the other as striving to be inclusive and supportive but sometimes coming across as exclusive and competitive. I wondered what caused the unintended sensation that some participants were not only more accomplished than others, but also more worthy of attention.
Throughout much of my life, belonging has not come easily to me. I’ve gone through phases of thinking it was because I was weird, or precocious, or an only child, because I came from a divorced family, or lived with my grandmother, or was working class in a middle class neighborhood, because I was mixed race in a white neighborhood, or mixed race in a Mexican neighborhood, or simply because I talked too much and too loudly.